Why so much hate for Sony car audio? - diyAudio
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Old 15th October 2011, 10:07 PM   #1
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Default Why so much hate for Sony car audio?

I have two Sony headunits. They're pretty much bottom of the barrel $100 units that I bought just to replace to have a CD player and because my factory systems sucked pretty bad.

I'm having problems with one of the factory speakers. (Kind of muffled and distorts bad. 19 year old speakers)..so I decided to take out the unit today to see if any of my connections had went bad or something.

I've had this for around 3 years now, and in my other car, around 5 years...no problems. From what I could judge by looking through the slats, I saw some pretty decent quality components. Saw some good quality Japanese capacitors and overall, looked like they did a decent job, though it was no great inspection.

So what's the deal? Every car audio forum I look on, all you see is "SONY SUCKSS!!" everywhere...They can't possibly be that bad, or else I would have already had a dead headunit!

Any input?
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Old 15th October 2011, 10:46 PM   #2
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Sony got a bad reputation, especially for their CD player head units, a few years back and it's stuck for a lot of people. The CD players would generally last only about 1 month past the warranty period. The laser pickup would fail. The pickups were so poorly designed that the suspension for them would actually fail on the shelf. Most of the techs I knew quit working on them because the replacement pickups were often bad out of the box. I don't think that they have resolved this issue but I haven't had any experience with Sony products lately.

Other than that, their equipment is generally made to be used but not abused. Since most people abuse their equipment (always trying to get more from it), it doesn't always hold up. If it is used as it was designed to be used, it's no better or worse than anything else in its price range.
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Old 15th October 2011, 10:56 PM   #3
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Sony generally doesn't sound as good or perform as well as almost any other well known brand at a similar price. I've never liked thier products, they remind me of Bose, a lot of marketing hype and little else. When I was a repair tech in a former life, we used to cringe every time we were stuck working on a Sony unit, they just suck all the way around.

Mike
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Old 15th October 2011, 11:30 PM   #4
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Perry,

I see what you mean. I rarely ask too much of the unit. 1/4 or 1/2 the volume usually. I don't ask too much from it.

Nevertheless...I still don't think they're that bad, especially since they were like $90 on sale.

Michael,

Yeah I've never really seen any other Sonys so I guess I really don't know...

Like since when did they star to "suck" and is there current stuff still in that category?
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Old 16th October 2011, 01:37 AM   #5
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Since forever. Sony marches to thier own drummer, the way they design equipment is archaic at best. Several years ago, my Uncle wanted to replace an aging Magnavox CD player in his above average stereo setup, so he found what seemed to be a good deal on a mid-range Sony. I was there visiting when he asked me to have a listen to his new player. We listened to a couple of his discs and I was really underwhelmed with what I heard. Not wanting to seem insulting, I discretely asked if I could try some of my own music, something I was more familiar with. I put in Pink Floyd "Dark Side of The Moon" and couldn't beleive how ordinary and flat sounding it was. I think he must have sensed my disappointment, and asked what I thought. I was honest with him and said I didn't think it sounded very good and told him that maybe there was something wrong with it and should be returned for a replacement. That's when he told me he had already done that, and the replacement was just as bad as the original. So he took the Sony out, put the Magnavox back in, and it sounded much better. He eventually ended up with a Denon that I believe he is still using to this day. I can't comment on the current state of Sony products due to having them on my "won't even consider" list. Because of what I've seen how they build stuff, and how much dissapointment I've experienced in how they perform, I will never buy a Sony product.

Mike
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Old 16th October 2011, 02:14 AM   #6
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I remember In the Mid 90's Sony was all the rage (I am a fan), there designs looked great, even by today's standards. None of there gear ever blew me away sound wise but they worked well and had decent features (car & home). They also had high'ish end design teams working on some very nice stuff.

Then it all went to ****. Big ugly buttons and gaudy plastic work suddenly covered everything, the sound went from average to poor in most products and I couldn't help but sense that the PR department had taken over the running of the company.

That was all about 15 years ago and every time I check out there new car audio gear in the shops it still looks and sounds distinctly average. The home gear I have heard has been mostly average also.

I did hear about 8 years ago that in a bid for production efficiency they had reduced there parts bin for developing/manufacturing products, from around 13,000,000 separate items, down to around 4,000,000. I cant promise these numbers are accurate but it was in the order of millions and the downsize ratio is about right from memory. My point here is that this company is a production giant. Cost is number one at this level of the game and managing/steering this type of company towards great sound could be a long way down the priority list.

I cant remember the last time I had a recommendation from a friend for a Sony unit, except for a TV, but even that was some time ago.

Cheers
Dean
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Old 16th October 2011, 04:27 AM   #7
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Hmmph. Well I've never had anything but factory speakers in my car, so maybe I don't know any better.
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Old 16th October 2011, 06:50 AM   #8
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Well, I really don't know much about SONY car audio ... but I do know about SONY the company and it's products. In that respect, I'm assuming that the car audio toes the company line (and from the comments so far, that seems reasonable to me).

SONY is a huge company ... people seem to intuitively know this, but at times it seems like even then they underestimate the scope of this giant. They OEM for so many companies it's not funny ... but OEM products are not designed exclusively by SONY. Right away there's a clue ... SONY is capable of good products, or more precisely, products that run the gamut from barely adequate to excellent ... but for their own stuff, they have a specific fingerprint you can find on all their stuff. The "company line", if you will.

And there is where SONY both annoys and rewards it's customers. SONY products are targeted ... they have a buyer profile of you (or someone else) that is reflected in the product itself. Some SONY gear is designed for serious buyers, but is priced accordingly. Most ordinary consumers never really encounter these products ... it's too rich for their blood.

Some other stuff is designed for semi-serous buyers ... again, it's never bargain priced, but at least it's attainable for ordinary mortals. These are the products I am asked most about, and I find SONY's choices somewhat lacking when it comes to features (too many useless ones, what we in the Audio Business used to call "bells and whistles", somewhat akin to the auto industry's "chrome and woodgrain" mentality) and not enough pure performance. Still, some of these products can be decent buys, but only in comparison to the "me too" competition, in contrast to the "actually get it" competition I tend to recommend to people I know who still ask me stuff from time to time.

Note: I was in the Audio Business years ago, not now.

The last group of SONY stuff, and from what I see the Car Audio generally falls here, is what they want to sell to brand-concious buyers who really don't have the time or inclination to really do any actual product evaluation. They walk into a store and buy something within the hour.

This stuff is built to a price first, and product quality falls where it may. It's "good enough" but absolutely no better. It's shiny and pretty and lights up and seems to work. Just don't push it, or you will come up against it's limits fairly quickly.

SONY is a strange, somewhat dysfunctional company. They own a movie studio and a record label but pretty much invented and aggressively sold the CD-R drive they OEM'ed to computer companies a decade and a half ago, eating their own lunch in the process. They do the same with higher-data optical drives and media, taking out the movie side the same way they attacked the label side five years earlier.

They do tons of basic research, and clearly have people who can hear (SACD, anyone?), but the majority of their stuff is built for and designed by the deaf; as if a Japanese husband of a Soccer Mom was building stuff for an American Soccer Mom to pick up in the store. They care more about the "message" (marketing) than the medium (the product), and deliberately modify the product to fit the message. There's where the problem lies, as consumers. You get less than you paid for if performance is the goal, but none of your audio or video-indifferent friends will criticize your choice, because they got the message and vaguely approve without really knowing why they feel that way.

It's not junk, but it's not the best value either. Too safe to be useful to enthusiasts, and more safe than the other brands they've never heard of to the ordinary unwashed consumer. If you buy SONY products you're thinking like a Soccer Mom. If you're a DIYAudio member, you should be looking elsewhere for your fix, where value to you is found in durability, suitability and sound quality, and is inherent in the product itself.

Two anecdotes:

I have a friend who one day tells me he's looking for a new Home Theatre receiver, and goes on to say his SONY "piece of ***) broke right out of warranty and he's never going to buy another SONY product again, not because it actually broke but mostly because of the hard-nosed indifference SONY had to his issue. But, he bought into the brand with his Playstation, a high quality product in most respects but also one that had some initial problems with reliability.

Back in the day I usually bought SONY Trinitron monitors and TV sets. They were the best in image quality. But why were they the best? Not because of durability, or manufacturing quality, but because of the patent on the Trinitron phosphor layout. Anyone could have built them, armed with the patent and towards the end, when it expired, others did and they were as good, often cheaper, and occasionally better. My last was a Korean clone and it was an outstanding monitor for graphics work, and cost 30% less than the SONY equivalent.

That, in a nutshell, is the story right there. Their stuff is mostly good, occasionally poor, rarely outstanding, and always top dollar (high margins from manufacture to retail, with dealer pressure to discount protected by SONY stores that sell everything at full MSRP) but in the end not good enough if you actually care about audio (or video).
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Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 16th October 2011 at 07:09 AM.
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Old 16th October 2011, 08:06 AM   #9
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Strange. About 18 months ago, I bought a Sony head unit because it had the features I wanted at the price I wanted to pay. Sound quality seemed on par with other competing units and it's outlasted one car I sent for scrap and just been installed in another. No complaints whatsoever. It does the job.
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Old 16th October 2011, 08:25 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkmouse View Post
Strange. About 18 months ago, I bought a Sony head unit because it had the features I wanted at the price I wanted to pay. Sound quality seemed on par with other competing units and it's outlasted one car I sent for scrap and just been installed in another. No complaints whatsoever. It does the job.
Sure ... they're capable of good products; I just generally find them unremarkable. My comparison would be a Soundstream head unit that is now 23 years old, outlasted four vehicles, has an FM section (and the AM section; modern AM implementations even in good decks is just plain nasty) that outperforms almost anything you can buy today ... even the cassette player sounds great on Dolby C encoded tapes.

No aux in, but I whipped one up for iPod/etc input with it's own volume control. Right now it's in a Miata that is never locked and usually is left top down everywhere. Nobody ... not even Crackheads ... want to steal "a cassette deck", and it's a pull-out.
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Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 16th October 2011 at 08:29 AM.
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